London-based suzanne lee, is a senior research fellow in the school of fashion / textiles, central saint martins, london. She is also the creative director of biocouture which investigates the growth of clothing through the use of bacterial cellulose. Lee’s latest garment – which uses these growing textiles – is the ‘biocouture’ jacket made from cellulose. Instead of coming from plants, the cellulose is produced by millions of tiny bacteria grown in bathtubs of sweet green tea.
I have been growing Kombucha cultures myself for the last year or so and they grow really easily. All they need is tea, sugar and some oxygen. As long as the container is not contaminated with harmful bacteria or germs, this wonder drink will continue fermenting. Suzanne Lee has a TED talk dedicated to making clothes from the culture as well, which you can find at the bottom of this post. Its cheap, accessible, biodegradable and probably even durable. I have always been drinking the beverage, its time for me to try to dry the cultures in to pieces of clothing myself.
I think it is really important for designer to really be involved in biotechnology discourse. I truly do believe that the materials and processes of design will be merged with biological ones. We are stepping in to new boundaries, but in a sense most radical new technologies have similar potential and issue at the same time. (Niel Postman is an interesting author to look at on this topic)
Biotechnology and synbio will have much more support in plants than animals when we look at design and ethics. It seems perfectly ok to manipulate plants to make new building materials, but when we speak about animals, we consider their autonomy and sensations such as pain. For example the thought of animals as slaves is unattractive. But I believe that both have implications. Maintaining biodiversity seems to be one of these issues that will rise with biotechnology. Food and medicine will not be the only aspect of life that will sound alarming when considering biotechnology.
We have yet to discover our environment, just in the rainforest alone. And yet we fail to mention the cultural implications. An example is the people in the rainforest who have now become “westernized” and choose to no longer pursue their great ancestor’s knowledge in medicine in plants of the rainforest. This means that every year, every month when great medicine men pass away, their knowledge of those plants and animals are long gone with them. How can we access that part of earth where there is the most biodiversity. There are still so many plants that we do not use in commercial medicine that could cure the diseases scientists are researching to cure synthetically. I am not exactly sure if commercialization of these plants (with the type of mass production manufacturing processes we have today – high pressure, high temperature, monocultural farming , just to name a few) will even be possible or sustainable for our future.
And I find that before running off to new technologies, perhaps we must take a look at the problems we have today and how we got here. I am in support of biotechnology and synthetic biology, and believe that designers have so much to offer in this field not simply for application and innovation but also ethics and sustainability of our materials and processes. Every time I see a biotechnological discovery or creation made simply for our own amusement or mass entertainment, i cringe a little.
I’ve known about E. Chromi for about a year now and actually have been in contact with Alexandra Ginsberg, but what reminds me to post this here is visiting the London Design Museum, where Ecrhomi was displayed. Here is a video explaining the iGEM project. Really interesting and forward thinking about synbio and biotech. After which made a short visit to Royal Collage of Art where I met Anthony Dunne and some second year students in Design Interactions, where Ginsberg herself had studied. I really enjoyed the work that they do, but so far I am most interested in looking at technology as a medium and the applications and ethics of new technologies.
Many people have talked about vertical farming, its time to take a closer look at how it might change our world, its benefits and maybe effects on urban settings. I visited David Benjamin in December and one of his students had ideas for a city with vertical farming and I quickly realized that sunlight is still a problem. If vertical farming exists in urban setting, such dense cities like new york, we can already predict that some buildings will be blocking the sunlight from entering other buildings that are placed in the center. Perhaps the design of the building itself becomes very crucial and instead of lare rectangles the form has to change to address this issue. Perhaps the first floor of a building surrounded by other buildings is not the perfect location for a type of plant that relies on sunlight.
Just came across Archigram a few days ago, incredible ideas– very futuristic from the 60s– It is inspiring to me today.
BLOW OUT VILLAGE
Michael Rakowitz, a New york based artist created inflatable homes for the homesless that work with excess air of the city. His work is a commentary on how the homeless live off the waste of the city. These homes change the idea of space, speak of political and social systems.
“Bill S.’s paraSITE shelter. He requested as many windows as possible, because “homeless people don’t have privacy issues, but they do have security issues. We want to see potential attackers, we want to be visible to the public.” Six windows are placed at eye level for when Bill is seated and six smaller windows for when Bill is reclining.”
George L.’s paraSITE shelter. Made on a budget of $5.00 from trash bags, ZipLoc bags, and clear waterproof packing tape. George requested a system of “ribs” that would be made of semi-translucent trash bags. In between the ribs, he wanted windows to expose the “meat” between the bones.”
The windows are made of Ziploc sandwich bags and serve as pockets to display personal items and signage for the public. Privacy and publicity can be regulated by adding or removing objects.
Design process sketches for a shelter built for Artie, a 62-year-old homeless man living near Madison Square Garden. Artie often stands in line for concert tickets at the request of scalpers. For his paraSITE, Artie requested a domed sitting space for himself and his girlfriend, Myra, connected to a lower, intimate sleeping area for two, “the lovin’ room.”
Lucy Orta’s work considers the home as something that is dynamic and humans as nomadic. These objects become Architecture , fashion, and products all in one, merging the boundaries between them. You can simply pick up your home and while wearing it as a jacket, settle somewhere else.
Here is an interesting paper called “Dress for Stress Wearable technology and the social body” by Susan Elizabeth Ryan
This paper considers the work of artists, designers, and activists who, since the 1990s, have worked with body covering as survival mechanism and social tool. Individually or within collectives, they call their work art, design, or activism; or all three. The result is a “body of records” of technological, biological, and performable wearables that have not received the attention they deserve, both as art and design, and as vehicles for ideas about threats to species survival and collective experience.
For example, in the early 1990s artists created wearable artworks in the form of survival attire embedded in localized performative events concerned with social connection under adverse circumstances. Lucy Orta is prominent among such practitioners, who formulate clothing the body as critical, social, and ethical practice within an ambient “culture of fear.” (Fig. 1).
I call such work “critical garment discourse” (abbreviated as CGD), a term I propose to mean work in the form of fashion or clothing that concerns not just the body, but notions of dress–and dress, not just as historically viewed or normatively considered, but as experienced, situated and located, and empowered as a medium capable of significant commentary.
Beautiful little paper sculptures with a few simple folds by Kumi Yamashita
found at Potz!Blitz!Szpilman!
IKEA “Hembakat är Bäst” baking book is actually a 140 pages coffee-table book, containing 30 classic swedish baking recipes. They were inspired by high fashion and japanese minimalism and decided to put the ingredients in focus. The recipes are presented as graphic still-life portraits on a warm and colourful stage. And you can find out more about all the details and all the different recipes and pictures of each page HERE.
I came across ZIBA a while ago but only recently when they started following me on Twitter, I really started checking out their projects/ thoughts on design. Very interesting, not to mention that they hosted IDSA 2010 conference in Portland and the CEO is Iranian. Would love to collaborate and get in touch. Very sweet and interesting people.
NIET NORMAAL Everyone’s heard of Average Joe, but has anyone ever met him? What does he look like and how does he act? Is he even a he? And could you be Average Joe? This website is dedicated to finding out. It’s part of Niet Normaal, a new exhibition which explores what is and isn’t normal through the work of cutting edge contemporary artists. To find out whether you look normal, click here. To find out whether you act normal, click here.